They are thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), biotin (B7), folate (B9) and cobalamin (B12).
Though each of these vitamins has unique functions, they generally help your body produce energy and make important molecules in your cells.
Aside from B12, your body cannot store these vitamins for long periods, so you have to replenish them regularly through food.
Many foods provide B vitamins, but to be considered high in a vitamin, a food must contain at least 20% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) per serving. Alternatively, a food that contains 10–19% of the RDI is considered a good source.
Here are some healthy foods high in one or more B vitamins:
This all-around nutritious fish is high in several B vitamins. A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) cooked serving of salmon contains:
- Thiamine (B1): 18% of the RDI
- Riboflavin (B2): 29% of the RDI
- Niacin (B3): 50% of the RDI
- Pantothenic acid (B5): 19% of the RDI
- Pyridoxine (B6): 47% of the RDI
- Cobalamin (B12): 51% of the RDI
Additionally, salmon is a low-mercury fish that is high in beneficial omega-3 fats, as well as protein and selenium.
Several leafy greens stand out for their folate (B9) content. These are among the highest vegetable sources of folate:
- Spinach, raw: 41% of the RDI in 3 cups (85 grams)
- Spinach, cooked: 31% of the RDI in a 1/2 cup (85 grams)
- Collard greens, cooked: 20% of the RDI in a 1/2 cup (85 grams)
- Turnip greens, cooked: 25% of the RDI in a 1/2 cup (85 grams)
- Romaine lettuce, raw: 29% of the RDI in 2 cups (85 grams)
Notably, some folate is destroyed by heat during cooking, and some can transfer to the cooking water as well. To minimize folate loss during cooking, steam the greens until partway between tender and crisp.
Though not especially popular, organ meats — especially liver — are packed with B vitamins. This is true whether they’re from beef, pork, lamb or chicken.
For example, a 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of beef liver contains:
- Thiamine (B1): 12% of the RDI
- Riboflavin (B2): 201% of the RDI
- Niacin (B3): 87% of the RDI
- Pantothenic acid (B5): 69% of the RDI
- Pyridoxine (B6): 51% of the RDI
- Biotin (B7): 138% of the RDI
- Folate (B9): 65% of the RDI
- Cobalamin (B12): 1,386% of the RDI
If you’re unaccustomed to liver’s strong flavor or view organ meats as unappetising, try them ground and mixed with traditional cuts of ground meat or add them to highly seasoned foods, such as chili.
One large egg contains 33% of the RDI for biotin distributed between the yolk and white. In fact, eggs are one of the top sources of biotin — only liver contains more .
Eggs also contain smaller amounts of other B vitamins. One large (50-gram) cooked egg contains:
- Riboflavin (B2): 15% of the RDI
- Pantothenic acid (B5): 7% of the RDI
- Biotin (B7): 33% of the RDI
- Folate (B9): 5% of the RDI
- Cobalamin (B12): 9% of the RDI
Bear in mind that raw egg whites contain avidin, a protein that binds with biotin and prevents its absorption in your gut if you regularly eat a lot of raw egg whites. Cooking eggs inactivates avidin and reduces food safety risks.
If you don’t eat eggs, meat or other animals products, you can meet your biotin needs by consuming foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and whole grains, which all contain small amounts of biotin .
One 8-ounce cup (240 ml) of milk provides 26% of the RDI for riboflavin, as well as smaller amounts of other B vitamins:
- Thiamine (B1): 7% of the RDI
- Riboflavin (B2): 26% of the RDI
- Pantothenic acid (B5): 9% of the RDI
- Cobalamin (B12): 18% of the RDI
Unsurprisingly, studies indicate that milk and other dairy products are generally people’s top source of riboflavin, followed by meat and grains.
Like other animal products, milk also is a good source of B12, supplying 18% of the RDI per 1-cup (240-ml) serving .
What’s more, you absorb B12 best from milk and other dairy products — with absorption rates of 51–79% .
Beef can make a big contribution to your B vitamin intake.
In an observational study of eating habits in about 2,000 people in Spain, meat and meat products were the main sources of thiamine, niacin and pyridoxine .
Here’s the amount of B vitamins in a 3.5-ounce (100-gram) cut of sirloin steak, which is about half the size of the smallest steak typically served in restaurants:
- Thiamine (B1): 5% of the RDI
- Riboflavin (B2): 8% of the RDI
- Niacin (B3): 39% of the RDI
- Pantothenic acid (B5): 6% of the RDI
- Pyridoxine (B6): 31% of the RDI
- Cobalamin (B12): 29% of the RDI
Legumes are most notable for their high folate content. They also provide small amounts of other B vitamins, including thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid and B6.
Here is the folate content of a 1/2-cup (85-gram) cooked serving of some commonly eaten :
- Black beans: 32% of the RDI
- Chickpeas (garbanzo beans): 35% of the RDI
- Edamame (green soybeans): 60% of the RDI
- Green peas: 12% of the RDI
- Kidney beans: 29% of the RDI
- Lentils: 45% of the RDI
- Pinto beans: 37% of the RDI
- Roasted soy nuts: 44% of the RDI
Folate — or its synthetic form folic acid — is important for reducing the risk of certain birth defects. Note that the RDI percentages above are based on an RDI of 400 mcg, but pregnant women need 600 mcg daily .
Chicken and turkey are most notable for their niacin and pyridoxine content. White meat — such as the breast — supplies more of these two vitamins than dark meat — such as the thigh.
Like other common meats, pork is packed with several B vitamins. It’s especially notable for its high amount of thiamine, of which beef provides little.
A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) pork loin chop provides :
- Thiamine (B1): 69% of the RDI
- Riboflavin (B2): 24% of the RDI
- Niacin (B3): 24% of the RDI
- Pantothenic acid (B5): 9% of the RDI
- Pyridoxine (B6): 27% of the RDI
- Cobalamin (B12): 14% of the RDI
To keep pork a healthy choice, opt for loin cuts, which are much lower in fat and calories than shoulder cuts (commonly used for pulled pork), spareribs and bacon
Sunflower seeds are one of the best plant sources of pantothenic acid. This B vitamin gets its name from the Greek word “pantos,” meaning “everywhere,” because it’s found in most plant and animal foods — but usually only in small amounts .
Remarkably, 1 ounce (28 grams) of sunflower seeds packs 20% of the RDI for pantothenic acid. Sunflower seeds are also a good source of niacin, folate and B6 .
Sunflower seed butter, popular among people with nut allergies, is an excellent source of pantothenic acid as well.
Consuming adequate amounts of the eight B complex vitamins puts you on the path to a healthy diet.
Some top sources of B vitamins include meat (especially liver), seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, legumes, leafy greens, seeds and fortified foods, such as breakfast cereal and nutritional yeast.
If you restrict your intake from some food groups due to allergies or diet, your chances of B vitamin deficiencies may increase.
The Naturplus Blog and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. All material on The Naturplus Blog is provided for information purpose only. Always seek the advice of your physician or a qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before taking supplements and undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programs.